Monday, January 31, 2005

Let's All Do Things Like The Europeans Do!

For those of us who have held up the European methods as the pinnacle of correctness and the model of the way we should be doing things, may I present: German welfare reform!

::::::::A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing "sexual services'' at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year.

Prostitution was legalised in Germany just over two years ago and brothel owners – who must pay tax and employee health insurance – were granted access to official databases of jobseekers.

The waitress, an unemployed information technology professional, had said that she was willing to work in a bar at night and had worked in a cafe.

She received a letter from the job centre telling her that an employer was interested in her "profile'' and that she should ring them. Only on doing so did the woman, who has not been identified for legal reasons, realise that she was calling a brothel.

Under Germany's welfare reforms, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job – including in the sex industry – or lose her unemployment benefit. Last month German unemployment rose for the 11th consecutive month to 4.5 million, taking the number out of work to its highest since reunification in 1990.
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Yep, that's right. If you're a woman who's unemployed in Germany for longer than a year, you can be given an order to report for... (ahem)... work at your local brothel or lose your unemployment benefits entirely. Now, that's enlightenment!

And lest anyone think that it's just alarmist to be saying these things and that it would never actually happen, may I remind them that the unemployment rate in Germany is currently up over 10% and is expected to go as high as 14% with the figures to be released Wednesday. The sheer absurdity of it all is astounding. The real gem in this story was the government's comment on their attempt to make an exception to the rule for the sex industry:

::::::::The government had considered making brothels an exception on moral grounds, but decided that it would be too difficult to distinguish them from bars. As a result, job centres must treat employers looking for a prostitute in the same way as those looking for a dental nurse.::::::::

OK, now I know it may be a moderately difficult task to come up with the legalese but is there anyone who can't honestly distinguish between a brothel and the local pub? Sure, there are pubs that also have brothels in them, but there's a definite difference between the two businesses. Did anyone even try?

Hat tip: Little Green Footballs

Chrenkoff Has Good News From Iraq, Part 20

More Good News From Iraq from the man who's kept us highly informed, Arthur Chrenkoff. This one's a biggee, by the way. And it opens with the good news not even the media could ignore this time:

::::::::It happened. And they did it.

In scenes unimaginable only two years ago - and scorned as impossible, undesirable and impractical for months - millions of ordinary Iraqi men and women braved terrorist violence and came out to vote for their future government (for a brief election fact file see here).
...
In Iraq, millions came out to vote, despite well-advertised threats of election day violence. Al Zarqawi promised that the streets would flow red with the blood of voters, and indeed at least 36 people around the country died in suicide, grenade and mortar attacks, but the color of the day was not blood red but the purple marking the forefingers of those who have cast their ballot.

As predicted, the turnout was highest in the Shia and Kurdish parts of the country, moderate in mixed areas and lowest in Sunni strongholds, but everywhere it exceeded expectations. The total turnout figures are preliminary at this stage; Farid Ayar, the spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission says that around 60%, or 8 million, of those registered to vote did so. Earlier unconfirmed figures put the number even higher, at around 72%. Either figure puts to shame the average election turnout throughout the West where there is no danger that the journey to the polling station could be your last.
::::::::

Quite so. I'm waiting to see the official tally of the turnout, but Chrenkoff is correct in saying that even if it's 60%, that matches or exceeds many turnouts in other democratic nations. Including ours. And what about that boycott that was being called for earlier?

::::::::Throughout Baghdad, the turnout (reported as high as 95%) disappointed the boycotters: "Asked if reports of better-than-expected turnout in areas where Sunni and Shiite Muslims live together indicated that a Sunni cleric boycott effort had failed, one of the main groups pushing the boycott seemed to soften its stance. 'The association's call for a boycott of the election was not a fatwa (religious edict), but only a statement,' said Association of Muslim Scholars spokesman Omar Ragheb. 'It was never a question of something religiously prohibited or permitted'."::::::::

Well that's certainly not how they were talking a month or so ago, but it appears that this political party has picked up on the concept of spin pretty quick.

In any case, there's lots of other stories collected by Chrenkoff that have been under-reported, so go have a look.

Soros Says Kerry A "Flawed Candidate"

Bloomberg reports that George Soros, the billionaire who put millions into the elections over the past year or so in an explicitly-declared effort to see that George Bush wasn't re-elected, thinks Kerry was a flawed candidate who, "did not, actually, offer a credible and coherent alternative,'' to President Bush. No kidding. Emphasis on the credible part, which is what I have said about Kerry all along. Nearly everything Kerry said during his campaign wasn't believable, from the continued assertions about his "Christmas in Cambodia" (and that's what a lie looks like, for the record), through his statements that he'd released all of his military records, to his bold claim on one hand to never seek a permission slip to act in America's interest yet on the other hand holding off any action that didn't pass a global test.

Lots of people want to talk about some specific issue or another that put President Bush back into the White House, whether that's gay marriage or the evangelicals or whatever. The fact is, since no one even knows how every voter voted, the question of why they voted that way will never be truly known. The only thing that can be reasonably concluded was that a majority of Americans considered the two candidates for the job of President and found that George Bush was the man they felt was more capable and had articulated a better plan for the future. What, specifically, he had better capability in or what specifically he planned better is basically guesswork. (Those exit polls were hugely flawed, we all know that.) That George Bush is a flawed man is a given, considering the human condition. The majority of us just thought, as pertains that quality we refer to as "presidential", Kerry was more flawed. Glad to see Soros can admit it.

Democratic Underground On Democracy

I actually saw this thread yesterday but just didn't have the gumption left to post on it at the time. In preparing to write about it this morning, I note that the Powerline boys have beaten me to the punch. I have no problem with that, so here's their post.

The quote that started it all is here at the Democratic Underground. I couldn't help but think that for folks who call themselves by such a name, they don't seem to have a lot of respect or desire to see democracy bloom anywhere. It reads:

::::::::All the media keeps talking about is how happy the Iraqis are, how high turnout was, and how "freedom" has spread to Iraq. I had to turn off CNN because they kept focusing on the so-called "voters" and barely mentioned the resistance movements at all. Where are the freedom fighters today? Are their voices silenced because some American puppets cast a few ballots?

I can't believe the Iraqis are buying into this "democracy" bullshit.
::::::::

The rest of the quote is basically a hope that the "resistance" will somehow subvert the process or - better yet - already has and is simply using the election process to sucker those stupid, evil Americans in so they can put their much superior leadership in place. I would argue, by the way, that if the "resistance" got voted in, as the author of this thread is hoping, then they're not the resistance, are they? They're the new Iraqi Assembly, which makes them the government, not the resistance. That's how democracy works. Of course, I can't imagine why the author would be hoping that the group who is beheading people in the streets, who is killing fellow Iraqis who are just trying to get in there and vote, who consists almost entirely of members who would stone gays to death and slap their mothers around for no good reason would win the elections. These are the people he thinks should be running a government? Does he think that's the kind of leadership we need here today?

While the vast majority of the comments posted to this thread were basically people cheering this author on and adding their own exhortations to the terrorists in Iraq to keep on blowing shit up, there was evidence that there is hope for the Democrats after all. Posted in reply was this:

::::::::If you want to cheer on a bunch zealots who stone gays and beat women or power-mad fascists, then go over to Pat Robertson's or the neo-Nazi's website. It's that kind of anti-democratic Democratic thinking that is turning the DNC into the minority party everywhere.

If what happened today in Iraq is screwing up the world, then we've got to figure out how to screw it up faster. Maybe if we could screw up mainland "company town" China their workers could have real unions and be able to bargin for better conditions. Let's screw up Iran next. After their wars women are enough of a majority there they might could elect some feminists.

Why does Bush say he wants to spread freedom around the world? If that's what American's want to here, then let's get out in front of it and complain from the cutting edge that the conservatives are too slow. Tell people that if they want to make sure its done right then who better than the party of Jefferson and Wilson and Roosevelt.

This short-sighted "the enemy of my political oponent is my friend" obsession is not only going to alienate voters, it's going to destroy an otherwise great opportunity to spread democracy around the world.

It's not enough to say that Bush's inaugural speech sounded pretty but he doesn't mean it, you have to follow it up by saying "BUT WE DO, we have a track record of 2 centuries of success, and if you give us a chance we'll show you again." How many people are going to be inspired by following it up with "and we'll protect your Social Security better?" Deep down people need to be a part of something greater than themselves. Maybe "fighting to blow up hopeful voters" seems great to a few people, but "fighting to make sure the bravery of hopeful voters is not wasted or betrayed" sounds better to me. I'll bet it sounds better to a lot of swing voters too.

As far as people "betraying their country" by wanting to vote... How the (&@(#& is that kind of nationalist thinking progressive?
::::::::

OK, now that's different. A suggestion that the Democrats might be better at spreading democracy than the Republicans. Is it true? I don't know. I haven't seen any other Democrat seriously advance such a position, but I'd love to hear more. When the Dems put someone out here who can tell us more, I'll be right there listening.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Unrelenting Media Negativity Corrected

I was going to post on this a couple of days ago but events overtook me on it. I'd like to revisit it.

In the middle of this past week as I was driving to work, the pre-election violence in Iraq was being covered on the radio station I listen to, WTOP in DC. The story referred to a convoy hit by a roadside bomb, another bombing attack (they didn't say what kind of bomb) and a firefight all of which resulted in the death of American soldiers. Listening to that, I thought to myself that they make it sound like our forces are simply waddling around in circles getting picked off like little duck cutouts at a carnival booth. You know, the kind where you throw 5 baseballs and if you knock down 5 of the duck targets, you win the prize? That's the image I was getting; that our guys are just walking around oblivious waiting for some terrorist to take them out.

I contrast that to the stories I read on the milbloggers' sites and with the e-mails I get from people I know who are over there right now. Those people are telling stories that for every American being killed** in a firefight, there's 20-30 so-called "insurgents" being taken out. The effect of leaving that out of the report is to really give the sense that there's absolutely no hope at all for a positive outcome, a picture that was demonstratedly false given today's participation in the elections there.

Reading over at Blackfive, however, I see that I wasn't alone in that thought. A post there quotes Thomas Sowell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, writing in the Baltimore Sun. (Registration required at the Sun.) Check out Blackfive for the whole story frm Mr. Sowell, but this part here was the kicker for me:

::::::::THERE ARE still people in the mainstream media who profess bewilderment that they are accused of being biased. But you need to look no further than reporting on the war in Iraq to see the bias staring you in the face, day after day, on the front page of The New York Times and in much of the rest of the media.

If a battle ends with Americans killing a hundred guerrillas and terrorists, while sustaining 10 fatalities, that is an American victory. But not in the mainstream media. The headline is more likely to read: "Ten More Americans Killed in Iraq."

This kind of journalism can turn victory into defeat. Kept up long enough, it can even end up with real defeat, when support for the war collapses at home and abroad.

One of the biggest American victories during World War II was called "the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot" because American fighter pilots shot down more than 340 Japanese planes over the Mariana Islands while losing just 30 American planes. But what if our current reporting practices had been used back then? The story, as printed and broadcast, could have been: "Today, 18 American pilots were killed and five more severely wounded as the Japanese blasted more than two dozen American planes out of the sky." A steady diet of that kind of one-sided reporting and our whole war effort against Japan might have collapsed.
::::::::

(Emphasis mine) Dead - on - the - money. This is exactly the kind of behavior the media has been engaged in for most of the last 3 years. Had they been as diligent in reporting the successes as the failures, the victorious actions of our forces as well as the fumbles, they would have been serving the function they've claimed to be handling. But they're not. As a group, they have bent more toward trying to exert their influence than in informing the public and so long as that's the case, they cannot be trusted, by and large. I would hope they would change their focus now.

** Note: the original post used the term 'shot' here, but it was apparently confusing and led to the assumption that I was saying every time an American solider was wounded there were 20-30 terrorists being killed. An immediate tangent followed that calculated over 100,000 terrorists dead which led to the conclusion that people were being recruited into terror organizations at a hugely accelerated rate. I do not subscribe to that theory and the text here is corrected to avoid further confusion.

Iraqi Voter Turnout Estimated At 72% Updated

The polls in Iraq are closed now and the estimate of the voter turnout is at 72% of eligible voters. If that estimate bears out, it's a hugely successful effort. Compare that figure to the US turnout in the 2004 elections which was just a hair over 60%. The participation by the Iraqi citizens is a good thing and represents their desire to have a hand in the direction of their own future. I applaud that.

Critics will point out that the day was not without bloodshed, and they'd be right. Mortar attacks and suicide bombers killed 28 people on their election day and that's sad, almost tragic. That those people had stepped up to have their say in the governance of their land for the first time in 50 years only to be cut short by people who can't abide the thought that others don't agree with their take on how the world should work is heartbreaking. Even with all that and with reports of violence zooming around as only gossip can, they came to the polls. They've spoken and now we can find out what they've said. I look very much forward to hearing their decisions.

By the way, you'll note that the figure I report above is not what many of the media are saying. They're saying 36 were killed. Of course, that's only if you include the terrorists who blew themselves up in the death toll. To do so, in my view, is to legitimize their action and stain the honor of those people who died while trying to do something positive for their nation. I don't count them in with the victims.

Mohammed and Omar of Iraq the Model are joyous at what the day has brought and thank those of us who have supported the efforts to bring Iraqis this election and what, hopefully, lies beyond. They understand the significance of what they've accomplished:

::::::::I walked forward to my station, cast my vote and then headed to the box, where I wanted to stand as long as I could, then I moved to mark my finger with ink, I dipped it deep as if I was poking the eyes of all the world's tyrants.
I put the paper in the box and with it, there were tears that I couldn't hold; I was trembling with joy and I felt like I wanted to hug the box but the supervisor smiled at me and said "brother, would you please move ahead, the people are waiting for their turn".

Yes brothers, proceed and fill the box!
These are stories that will be written on the brightest pages of history.

It was hard for us to leave the center but we were happy because we were sure that we will stand here in front of the box again and again and again.
Today, there's no voice louder than that of freedom.

No more confusion about what the people want, they have said their word and they said it loud and the world has got to respct and support the people's will.

God bless your brave steps sons of Iraq and God bless the defenders of freedom.

Aasha Al-Iraq….Aasha Al-Iraq….Aasha Al-Iraq
::::::::


Long live you all, indeed. Ali at Free Iraqi is equally happy and also feels a victory in his heart.

::::::::I entered the school and the supervisors showed me the way to were I should vote. They and the ING guys were so polite and gentle. I cast my vote and got out, not in a rush at all. This is my Eid and I felt like a king walking in his own kingdom. I saw the same look of confidence and satisfaction in the eyes of all people I met. As I left one of the gurads said to me as he handed me back my cellular phone,"God bless you and your beloved ones. We don't know how to thank you. Please excuse any inconvinience on our part. We wish we didn't have to search you or limit your freedom. You are heroes" I was struck with surprise and felt ashamed. This man was risking his life all these hours in what has become the utmost target for all terrorists in Iraq and yet he's apologizing and calling us heroes. I thanked him back and told him that he and his comrads are the true heroes and that we can never be grateful enough for their services.

I'm still thrilled as I'm watching Iraqis vote allover Iraq through TV. Al Arabyia just reported that 6 thousand people in Fallujah have voted till now out of 60 thousands who have returned to their homes (total not voters). I listened to that and I felt enormous admiration and respect to those 6 thousand heroes. Things are difficult in Baghdad but it's still incomparable to Fallujah. I'm sure that the number will rise towards the end of the day.

I'm stil overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions that I don't know what to say more. The only things I can feel so strongly now are hope, excitement, pride and a strange internal peace. I have won my battle and I'm watching the whole Iraqis winning their battle too. I'll try to write to you later my friends.
A'ash Al Iraq, A'ashat America, A'ash Al Tahaluf. (Long live Iraq, long live America and long live the coalition)
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Thank you, Ali. I agree with that guard you spoke with at the polling site. You are heroes all, heroes indeed.

Update: For the record, I think Dean Esmay's comments on the subject are perfect. Everyone who has said we could never hold elections and that no one would show up if we did was wrong. My prediction as to their next move: They'll say it still won't work and it won't really be a democracy until the next elections.

History In The Making: Iraq Goes To The Polls

I wish the Iraqis all the best as they open their polls and, for the first time in decades, take the reigns of their own destiny in hand. Mohammed over at Iraq the Model has some excited and encouraging words up. Ali at Free Iraqi has two posts that are also encouraging. I look very much forward to seeing this event written into history.

Perception Of The War

As I mentioned here in the last day or so, I had wanted to address something brought up in a comment to one of my posts and I didn't have the chance this week to write about it thoughtfully. Time is permitting, finally, and I wanted to get on with it. OK, the post in question was this one, where I linked to a report from the Kuwati News Service about terrorists abducting an Iraqi police officer, drove him into a neighborhood in broad daylight, and proceeded to behead him as a way of telling people their views on Iraqis who aren't seeing things their way. Rather than hearing about this kind of behavior from our media and members of the left, Americans instead get to hear about how every member of the US military command from the colonel on site up to President Bush (with a quick stop at the SecDef's office) should immediately resign over the horrific brutality of the inhuman treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The title of the post deals with this particular phenomenon: equivalence. Some soldiers at Abu Ghraib - acting on their own and in a fashion our military does not condone - put a leash on a prisoner and put women's panties on the head of another. This behavior w a s w r o n g and no one is seriously claiming otherwise. Period. Where I draw the line is, simply put, that the scope and magnitude of that wrong comes no where near being of a magnitude that you can even speak in the same breath of these two events: a beheading versus what amounts to a fraternity pledge week prank.

Read that again. The behavior at Abu Ghraib by our soldiers was wrong. It's no where near an equivalent wrong to the act of beheading someone. Whether that be an Iraqi policeman, a truck driver, a satellite sales engineer, or Margaret Hassan of CARE. My point in my previous post was to say that I found the immediate reaction of members of our media and of the left to meet mention of beheadings not with agreement that such actions are unjustifiable, but with pointed fingers and chants of "Abu Ghraib!" to be completely out of line. To hold that up in immediate reply to any mention of the terrorists' actions is to use Abu Ghraib to dismiss the terrorists' means and disregard what is really brutal and inhuman treatment. I think the media should have carried the story of the Iraqi policeman's death with equal vigor, if not more so.

So, that's what the post was about. Read it for yourself. Here's the comment I received in reply, courtesy Bob James:

::::::::Stop trying to excuse the crimes of American soldiers by pointing out the heinous acts of a small segment of Islamic extremists. It won't wash. What our soldiers did was wrong, period, and they knew better, no matter what anyone else does.

And you should know all about hand-wringing apologists, there are enough of them excusing this misbegotten war on the Right. But no, you won't say anything about the fact... FACT that this war isn't being fought the way it should have been because our leadership fucked it up from the word GO.
::::::::

Emphasis all his. Actually, this comment completely proves my point. Apparently, he thought so, too, because this one followed immediately: (We'll get back to this first comment shortly.)

:::::::: Bush was too busy rattling sabers and strutting around telling the world how he was going to "get Saddam". Too bad he didn't think about the all-too obvious fact that people don't like occupiers in their homeland. And that we might need adequate armor.

You want agreement that the slimeballs who are cutting off heads are lower than dirt that deserve to be exterminated? SURE. I'll agree. There! Happy now?? Got any ideas how we're supposed to tell the enemy from the civilians, yet? Or are we going to take a page from that good old Papal legate Arnaud-Amaury: "Slay them all. God will know his own."
::::::::

Emphasis again his. I guess I should mention I'm Catholic and Bob's not. Hence the reference to Arnaud-Amaury, Abbot of Citeaux. Of course, like most of the chop-busting commentary directed at me over my religion these days, the reference deals with an utterance in a war that happened 795 years ago. (No, I'm not kidding. The event was in the year 1209. Look it up.) Nothing like holding a grudge for an event one wasn't even present for, but I guess it's a good thing Bob's religion teaches complete tolerance of other religions or he might be tossing centuries-old comments in my face so he can dig at both my politics and religion in the same shot.

However, his second comment pretty much proves my point yet again. Sure, he "agrees" that the terrorists cutting people's heads off should be exterminated. (Note: that's a comment I never made and a suggestion I never put forward.) Of course, he does it in such a fashion that pretty much makes it sound like he's yelling agreement to disagree. And he'll only do that after launching the standard anti-Bush rhetoric and the standard left-wing mantra that our soldiers are occupiers rather than partners with the Iraqi government's forces. In this comment, it's not Abu Ghraib that he'll play up, it's his perception of President Bush "strutting" around and the aforementioned soldiers-are-occupiers thing that he puts up there to offset the terrorists' activities. Tossed in a comment about the armor, too, just to reinforce the image that administration - excuse me; "BushCo" - presents an equivalent badness as the murder of non-combatants by beheading. It is this absolute refusal to simply make a statement that really condemns the terrorists' actions without condition or offset that was the entire point of my post.

Now, back to that first comment. Taking this comment as representative of left's position, I'm understanding this to mean that the left can't make such an unequivocal condemnation because they don't feel that the right has made a reciprocating condemnation. Let's examine that. I myself have said here on this blog that the actions of those soldiers at Abu Ghraib were wrong. I said it right here, as a matter of fact. Others have said so plainly, and I'm talking about the right-wing, here. Blackfive and other milbloggers have consistently said the soldiers were clearly in the wrong and have even suggested that the sentence recently passed out to SPC Graner was too light.

About the "fact... FACT that this war isn't being fought the way it should have been because our leadership fucked it up from the word GO," however, presupposes that I agree that it's a fact. Any student of military actions cannot possibly look at the major combat part of the Iraq invasion and say that it was done poorly. To say that that part of the war wasn't fought the way it should have been is to ignore the complete success of the operation. There were soldiers killed, as in any war. The number dead on our side was kept to the minimum it was by virtue of excellent planning, training, and leadership and I refuse to concede anything but. The urban fighting that went on in Fallujah last month produced a victorious result with so few Coalition soldiers killed that the entire operation will be taught for decades as the ideal in that kind of combat environment. Again, the planning and execution of the operation was excellent as was the leadership and again I will not say otherwise. These things are part of the war, so to say that it's been "fucked up" from the word go is not true, ergo not fact. Consequently, I will not say anything about it except to say that it's not a fact.

Now, on to wider events, I certainly can say something. I believe 100% that mistakes have been made in our prosecution of this war, no doubt. There seems to be some question about who was responsible for the lack of body armor for our troops, the government or the suppliers. Both of those groups have a vested interest in blaming the other for the mess, so I can't understand why anyone would immediately side with either party on that question. Same for the Humvee armor. Of course, no army anywhere in the world and at any time has ever gone to war with the kind and quantity of armor American forces have available to them today. It's the modern obsession with absolute safety in all endeavors that presses some folks to think that any protection less than that which would allow our soldiers to stand motionless and unharmed amid 50-caliber machine-gun fire is insufficient. Sending our soldiers to battle with such "insufficiencies" is viewed as an intentional carelessness on the part of our government and that's where the emphasis on the armor question stems from.

I believe 100% that decisions were made that were completely wrong and I still think so today. Under no circumstances should any American soldier be required to hold his counter-fire because his enemy has decided to shoot at him from a mosque. The second an attack is launched from one of those mosques, it's a free target and should have been treated as such. Not the 10th time it happened, not after 3 strikes, but the very first time and every single time thereafter. Want to know why we keep finding huge weapon stockpiles in mosques? Because the terrorists know it's safe to put them there. Happened in Fallujah, Najaf, and Mosul and it will continue to happen for so long as this stupid policy of holding back when the building happens to be a mosque is followed. It was and remains a mistake. (Would I feel the same way if a bunch of Catholic terrorists holed up in St. Peter's in the Vatican and was taking pot-shots at American servicemen? You betcha.)

Speaking of Najaf, I am still stunned at the HUGE mistake of letting Al Sadr set the agenda there back in early 2004. He was given ultimatums, he made promises. In reply, he flipped everyone the bird and broke his promises, repeatedly. That he was allowed to leave Najaf and set up shop elsewhere where we had to go through it all over again was just plain dumb. And the first time the Marines were set to go into Fallujah they should have been sent. Instead, those same Marines and Army units had to go into Fallujah months later and attempt to clear out that same enemy who had had months to prepare and to terrorize the local civilian populace. Whoever made that decision is shy a few bulbs on the tree.

Rumsfeld should resign. There have been enough reports from milbloggers and members of the military that I know personally to say that the perception is that Rumsfeld does not listen to his battlefield commanders. In a chain of command that large, perception is quite a bit. To be honest, I'm not sure whether he didn't listen to his people or not nor am I completely convinced he's hosed things up at all, let alone as badly as the left is saying he has. But that's irrelevant. The war is about issues bigger than one man and at the Pentagon, it's said that no one's irreplaceable. Like it or not, responsible for the mistakes or not, Rumsfeld is a lightning rod and we can't afford that. He should step down. That President Bush didn't accept his resignation when everyone else turned theirs in was a mistake on his part. The President, of all people, should have known that perception is everything where his efforts are concerned. He made a mistake here.

Kind of an addendum to my last point, Rumsfeld should have moved to increase troop strength back in 2002 when it was being considered. He didn't. Mistake. If he doesn't move to correct the error by pulling our troops out of such countries as Germany and South Korea, that would be another mistake, in my opinion.

So, yes, I do think mistakes have been made. This is likely not the declaration the left is looking for, of course, but I don't believe the war, as a whole, is a giant mistake so they shouldn't hang around waiting for the comment. What having our media and our left not join in the unequivocal condemnation of the terrorists and, most specifically, their methods does is to create a false impression that those methods are OK with them. By pinning those non-equivalent offenses to the beheadings and general civilian terror tactics, they create the impression that those methods are justified, understandable, and reasonable. That's not right and that's what I said.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Powerline Unplugged? Updated

I'm not getting through to Powerline this morning. The Internet pointer that directs people to their blog site isn't showing the correct info as of a couple of minutes ago. (Techies: the DNS query fails. Attempts to browse there take you to a default page at their registrar, Enom Inc. Still pursuing...)

Update: They're back now. Seems the auto-registration of their domain name failed to be... well, auto.

Once More, Free Speech For Me But Not Thee

If an elected official, after being elected to his position, acts in a manner inconsistent with the desires of his constituency is it OK for that constituency to seek his recall from office in accordance with the law? I would submit that the answer "yes" should be considered axiom. In fact, it's the very flower of democracy to put decisions like that to the vote of the electorate. The only requirements would be that the recall effort be based on acts that can be proved occurred, that can be proved were committed by the elected official or by someone operating at his order, and that the elected official understood what he was doing. (Meaning that the "act" wasn't really an unintended and reasonably unforeseen consequence.) With those things set, the recall effort gets put to the test of the local law and, if successful, is placed as a referendum before the electorate. Their decision stands.

In this case in Estes Park, CO, the act in question is the refusal of an elected member of the town board to recite the Pledge of Allegiance before board meetings. In brief, David Habecker is an agnostic and is offended by the words "under God" in the Pledge. According to the story, he had been saying the Pledge previously and was simply omitting the offending words from his recital. This apparently became too much for him and he now simply sits while his fellow Trustees stand and recite. He's calling that an exercise of his First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion. His fellow Trustees and, apparently, a number of his constituents call it unacceptable behavior. They set about completing the requirements of the law to implement a recall vote.

Habecker is sueing to stop them.

I understand Habecker's argument completely and, strictly speaking he's correct. If he views the Pledge as a religious exercise, he's well within his rights to not participate. While we're on the subject, he's well within his rights to not participate, period, because he cannot be forced by law to say the time of day, let alone the Pledge.

But what about the First Amendment rights of his constituents to assemble (or, as the Supreme Court has interpretted, not assemble) with whomsoever they choose? Habecker was elected under the premise that there were certain behaviors he was going to follow and certain ones he would avoid. Several of my readers may not care that he won't say the Pledge and some of those would actively applaud him for it, but his constituents might well take saying the Pledge as a highly positive and mandatory thing for one of their town Trustees. That he's now not making the recital is clearly a significant omission for some of them and they might have chosen differently at the polls if they'd known he was going to take this stance. They are seeking to work within the law to recall him from office, but that recall isn't an automatic thing. They have to vote on the issue and that is where we'll all find out whether the recall enjoys wide support in their community or if it's just the noise of a few disgruntled folks in Colorado.

The real offense here is in the effort to sue in order to block the recall from progressing at all. Habecker is effectively saying that his First Amendment rights are more important than those of his constituents and that he should somehow be protected from the laws regarding recall votes. In both circumstances, Habecker demands protection of rights he would sue to deny his neighbors, and that's not right.

Government Says To Journalists: No Need To Apply

The title of the news report I read on Fox this morning was "Third Columnist Paid to Promote Bush Policy". One could be forgiven if one were to immediately assume that there had been discovered a third instance of a columnist being paid to write favorably about an administration policy. Preparing my thoughts to write about the event, I click on the story and what do I see?

::::::::WASHINGTON — The Department of Health and Human Services said Friday that a third conservative columnist was paid to assist in promoting a Bush administration policy.

Columnist Mike McManus (search) received $10,000 to train marriage counselors as part of the agency's initiative promoting marriage to build strong families, said Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families.
::::::::

Wait a minute. Training a counselor and writing glowing reports about a policy are two very, very different things. Perhaps they'll clarify later in the story?

::::::::Health and Human Services' Horn stressed McManus was not paid to write favorably to about the administration. Still, he said, HHS has now implemented a rule to prohibit the use of outside consultants or contractors who have any connection with the press.

"There's a growing misperception that taxpayers' money is being used to pay columnists to use their position in the media to portray the administration in a positive light," Horn said. "I felt a compelling need to draw a bright line in order to restore the public's confidence that we are not doing that."

McManus was hired by the Lewin Group, which had a contract with HHS to support community-based programs. As co-founder and president of the nonprofit group Marriage Savers, his expertise was applied to help the community-based programs to build "the capacity to develop healthy marriage initiatives," Horn said.
::::::::

So, the headline is very misleading, even though technically correct. McManus was hired to moonlight, as it were, as a trainer and it appears he was qualified to do so. This is hardly in the same class of event as the Armstrong payola-for-prose where a columnist was paid specifically to tout a policy in his column. McManus wasn't doing any of that. I'm a network engineer by profession, but I happen to be an excellent swimmer. If one of my neighbors pays me to teach their kid to swim, no one's going to call it unethical. This situation is very similar and doesn't deserve the "scandal" treatment it's getting.

Incoming Snow Again

Well, I woke up this morning and heard on the news that there's a snow/sleet mixture coming in to the DC area this afternoon, to be followed with 1-3 inches of accumulation overnight and into tomorrow. There goes the trip to the grocery store - there won't be a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk to be had. DC in the winter... ain't it great?

Friday, January 28, 2005

Apologies For The Lack

It's been a very busy week at my day job and that's been keeping me from writing as often as I'd like. At present, I'm preparing a post responding to comment left here as regards the prosecution of the war and the subject deserves more careful treatment than a hastily popped-off entry. Thanks for hanging in there.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

FBI, WI Police Start Investigation

Greg Borowski of the Journal Sentinel of Milwaukee continues his reporting into the voter fraud in Wisconsin. His latest story is that the FBI and local law enforcement in WI are opening up an investigation into the apparent voter fraud in Milwaukee that I mentioned earlier.

::::::::Citing a Journal Sentinel review that found more than 1,200 votes cast from invalid addresses in Milwaukee, local and federal law enforcement officials launched a joint investigation Wednesday into potential voter fraud in the Nov. 2 election.

Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann said he and U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic agreed to investigate potential problems together. The effort will also include the Milwaukee Police Department and the local office of the FBI.

McCann told the newspaper the group of prosecutors and investigators, including one with computer expertise, will try to "see if there was voter fraud or not. That's the major thrust."

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he welcomed the review.

"I remain optimistic they will find we ran a clean election in the city of Milwaukee," he said. "But if somebody broke the law, they should be prosecuted."
::::::::

This is good to hear, and especially so since the participants are bipartisan. McCann is a Democrat and Biskupic is a Republican. McCann is also quite correct in his assessment of what an investigation is for, meaning that it's to see if something happened as you suspect. I'm also glad to see Mayor Barrett come right out and support prosecution of violators, if discovered. The Journal has already done some investigative work and found:

::::::::Democrat John Kerry carried Wisconsin in the Nov. 2 election by a slim margin of 11,384 votes over President Bush and took more than 70% of the vote in Milwaukee. Questions are continuing to be raised, however, about the ballots that were cast in Milwaukee, where Kerry's margin over Bush was 123,000 votes. Among the concerns:
  • The number of people listed on the city's voter rolls as having voted in the Nov. 2 election is about 8,300 fewer than the number of ballots cast. This appears to be because the city was unable to process thousands of same-day registration cards because they contained illegible or missing information, such as a signature or date of birth. Milwaukee officials are unsure exactly how many cards have not been processed, and the number could be as high as 10,000.

  • A Journal Sentinel computer analysis of voting records uncovered more than 1,200 ballots cast from invalid addresses in the city. At least 186 of those ballots were cast from addresses that were among those challenged as non-existent by the state Republican Party days before the election.

  • The newspaper's analysis also found hundreds of cases in which people already registered in Milwaukee wound up registering again on election day, causing their names to be entered twice on the city's voter rolls.
::::::::

Under normal circumstances, I'd say WI was perfectly within their rights to continue to run a program allowing people to register the day of elections. In the case of a Presidential election, however, the results of which affect all Americans including those not residing in WI, a stricter standard needs to be enforced. The program is quite clearly the cause of the large irregularities in Milwaukee. Previous estimates at the discrepancy between the number of votes counted versus voters voting showed that there's over 8300 votes that cannot be reconciled with the number of voters. The city's latest estimates are raising that to about 10,000. WI was decided by a bit over 11,000 votes, so a fraud of that magnitude is serious indeed. I look forward to the investigation's results.

Undercover Bloggers At State Department

I wanted to take a moment to mention specially the work of 2 of the newer faces in the blogosphere, both blogging as "undercover conservatives" at the State Department. The Department of State (DoS) is fairly well known (or notorious, depending on your point of view) as a more leftward leaning department. Conservatives generally have a more difficult time moving up, or so I hear. Full disclosure: I worked at State as a network consultant for about 6 months. I had a very positive experience there and would have likely stayed had we not completed the project.

The first of these new bloggers is The Diplomad who is serving at one of our foreign embassies in southeast Asia, specifically near the areas hit by tsunami in December. He has chronicled the outstanding efforts of the Aussie and American military (among others) in providing real relief to the survivors of the disaster as well as the non-actions of the UN. His insights are extremely valuable since he's on the ground where it's all happening. If you've been reading this over the past month, you'll have noticed I've already made reference to his work before. Be sure to check out his archives - there's just way too much to link directly here.

The other guy is New Sisyphus and his writing is simply 1st rate. He's been writing quite a bit lately about the continued Democratic Party challenges to the elections in November and their questionable actions in places like Washington State and Wisconsin. He also managed to articulate something that's been wandering around in the back of my mind since November, specifically the new paradigm apparent with the most vocal of the Democrats since the 2000 elections:

::::::::We entered a new political age then, born of the horribly selfish acts of a sitting Vice President who would not and could not accept defeat. Count after count after count since those horrible days, even by liberal mouth-pieces like the New York Times, have verified that President Bush won Florida. Let us concede: the vote was close, Bush did not win the popular vote, Gore was favored by a majority of voters. However, in the end, under our precious Constitutional system, Bush won the 2000 election.

The Florida disaster inaugurated a new world where the Democratic challenger never really loses an election, even if he or she has. Since Florida, the Democratic Party has been completely unable to accept that it is losing in the battleground of ideas and has retreated to ever-more improbable conspiracy theories. And since they never lose, challenging any and all results is, of course, morally justified and right, since the whole world knows that Republicans never really "win" anything. Should "all the votes be counted," the Party of the People would, naturally, prevail.
::::::::

(Emphasis mine.) You need only witness Senator Kennedy's recent remarks about the Democrats being a minority in Congress but speaking for the majority of Americans to see that meme in action. If the Democrats truly spoke for a majority of the people, John Kerry would be President today. He's not, by about 3½ million voters. That's pretty clear that they don't speak for the majority. The situation in Washington State is a perfect example of that and one he speaks out on eloquently as well. By the way, that article I quoted from above is one of the most clearly explained analyses of the 2000 election - and the endless myths of what actually happened that the left still likes to roll out occasionally - that I've seen. The facts of the matter are laid out therein and anyone arguing either side of that event should read what they're advocating about.

Sisyphus also takes on such issues as whether Fox News is really as balanced (or not so) as is claimed, the indictments in the Wisconsin voter tampering case, and the latest Zarqawi tape.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Milwaukee Voter "Irregularities" Pile Up

Milwaukee's voting record for this past presidential election continues to get worse. This time, a local journalist has found that over 1200 addresses he checked are bogus. As reported on The Amercian Mind:

::::::::The Journal Sentinel's Greg Borowski continues to put together some fine work on Milwaukee's Election Day problems. His latest find is that 1,242 votes came from voters whose addresses do not exist. Reporters found a park, a baseball diamond, an alley, and a bridge at addresses voters claimed in order to vote. What isn't surprising is that 75% of those bad addresses came from same-day registration.::::::::

Sean Hackbarth at The American Mind goes on to say that the mayor's staff claims this isn't an indication of fraud. The voter registration form is clearly a government form that asks for a voter to provide a current address where they can be reached. When someone goes out of his way to provide bad information, he is fraudulently claiming a residency where he has none. That someone wouldn't consider this to be a fraud is outrageous and unjustifiable. The woman who was in charge of sending out the verification cards - and did so 2 months late - says these results the reporter "obtained make it clear the new statewide voter system is very badly needed and long overdue." No kidding. The system won't deal with the source of the problem, however, and that's the same-day registration that allows people to fraudulently cast votes they're not entitled to.

The Iraqi Political Roster

And we here in America think we've got trouble following just 2 parties and their candidates. (Four if you like to give the Libertarians and the Greens a look before making your decision.) The incomparable Chrenkoff steps up to the plate again with this list of the Iraqi political parties playing their parts in this new democracy. The list is huge!

(Can you imagine the trouble we'd have here in the States if we had a ballot with this many parties on it?)

Tossing a DART

I heard a comedian's routine once that poked fun at the Canadians' ability to respond to world emergencies. It went something like, "The Canadians? Oh, sure. When have you ever heard someone in a crisis saying, 'Oh, thank God! The Canadians are here!' " (He, by the way, was Canadian, as I recall.) Amusing, I suppose, unless you're a Canadian. The facts of the matter are, however, that you likely can't find someone saying that for a very basic reason: the Canadians can't show up to begin with. Bruce at Flit comments quite well on the subject.

::::::::There's little to say about the tragedy of Canada's response to the tsunami tragedy that hasn't already been said. A lot of excuses have been bandied about for why Canadian soldiers weren't sent, when Australia, Taiwan, Israel, and other countries despatched forces early, and the American military launched its largest operation in the area since Vietnam to try to save lives.

In the end, though, the answer's pretty simple: 600 tonnes.

That's the amount of airlift required to move the DART (Disaster Assistance Response Team). Since Canada only has the 4 CC-150 Polaris (modified Airbuses) for strategic airlift, with a cargo capacity of 13 tonnes each, rapid deployment of DART anywhere outside the effective ferry range of our 30-odd additional short-range Herc transports (ie, off this continent) was a mathematical impossibility, without civilian airlift...
::::::::

It's a good read and he articulates a very pointed question:

::::::::DART, an Eggleton "first-in" project, has atrophied to the point where it proved undeployable even to Haiti during the hurricanes last year. If all this makes you wonder how effective the CF might be if that earthquake had been off of Vancouver Island, instead of Aceh, well, you probably should wonder. It's certainly not encouraging. Hopefully the Americans will have an aircraft carrier free then, too.::::::::

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Heroes Indeed

Bill at INDC Journal had this link to this ad being shown on Iraqi TV. A more fitting political ad I cannot imagine and, frankly, the truly patriotic surge one gets from watching this ad makes me embarrassed about the quality of our political spots in this country. This is going to be a tough week for the Iraqis and our own troops over there, no doubt. The road up to this point has been no picnic, not at all. I do believe it has been the best path to making us all safer from terrorists and I also believe it's the only path that will allow Iraq to reclaim its own place among nations. The heroes of Iraq, indeed.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

An Equivalence Too Far

Maybe you've heard the news already, but perhaps not. The Kuwait News Agency has reported that an Iraqi Policeman was taken out of a car in Ramadi, Iraq, and beheaded in broad daylight in front of horrified bystanders.

:::::::: BAGHDAD, Jan 21 (KUNA) -- Witnesses said here Friday that a number of gunmen beheaded a policeman and stuck a note on his corpse describing as traitors those working with or helping the police.

About ten gunmen in two cars in the Ramadi area stepped out of their vehicles, attacked a soldier, tied his hands behind his back, and cut his head off before the eyes of shocked onlookers in the street, the witnesses said.
::::::::

This is the face of the terrorists we and the Iraqis are fighting. They didn't make the policeman wear women's panties on his head. They didn't torture him by taking his picture with a leash on being held by a woman. They grabbed him off the street, drove him into a neighborhood where an audience could be found, pulled him out of the the car and then sawed his head off. To make a political point, they cut the head off a man in the middle of crowded street. There is no justification for this kind of act, none whatever. Yet the hoards of hand-wringing apologists who scream for the entire leadership of the American government to resign right now over the "torture" at Abu Ghraib have remained totally silent on this matter. They refuse to look at this evil and call it what it is for fear of either condemning some terrorist's or his supporters' "minuteman-like resistance" or because they simply can't allow something to pass their lips that might sound to untrained ears like agreement with those of us on the right.

Well, these Islamic extremist terrorists are not the equivalent of the American minutemen and their resistance is not justification for this kind of act. I would expect Americans to say so, regardless of who they voted for in Novemeber. I'm not holding my breath, but I still expect it.

Iraqi Poll: Bring On The Elections!

Ali at Free Iraqi has the latest poll results. If you're relying on the Washington Post or the New York Times for your information, you're going to be surprised:

::::::::67% do not support postponing the elections.
52% refuse the interference of clerics in politics and 39% support such interference.
100% of women in Azzamyia favored postponing the elections while 93.5% of the women in Sadr city favored that it would be held at the exact decided time.
85.66% have set up their minds on whom to vote for.
59.33% have no knowledge about the details of the election process, the lists of candidates and their platforms.

The poll included the poor Shi'at district Sadr city.
- Azzamyia district, where most of the residents are Sunni middle class families and was known since the 60s to be a stronghold for the Ba'athists.
-Karrada which is mainly middle and high class She'at district.
-Al Mansoor which is on of the fanciest neighborhood in Baghdad (sects, religions and ethnic group doesn't matter much there).
Other chosen districts were Al Doura, Al Karkh and Al Fadl.

Al Mansoor scored the highest percentage of people who have set up their minds on whom to vote, (87.94%) while the lowest was in Azzamyia, (13.15) and Sadr city scored 39.47%.
Azzamiya scored the highest percentage of those who favor the interference of clerics in politics (63%) while the lowest percentage was in Mansoor (21%)
Men scored the highest percentage in supporting separation of religion from politics. 57% of them said they didn't favor the interference of clerics in politics.
On the other hand 43% of women said they didn't favor the interference of clerics in politics compared to 46% who favored such interference.
::::::::

Interesting results, and very nice of Ali to include the location briefs since most of us have no idea where these places are, let alone their current conditions and demographics. He's also got a firm grasp on the politics of survey results and their use:

::::::::So, if we depend on this poll (why not since whenever we open our mouths to say that Iraqis want democracy, some big hot shot scream, "BUT THE POLLS SAY THE OPPOSITE") the majority wants the election to be held at the exact time.::::::::

Their Turn To Speak

The brothers at Iraq the Model have achieved widespread note, as well they should. They have visited here in the United States and are, quite likely, the most recognized Iraqi bloggers in the 'sphere. They were interviewed by Sarah Boxer for a piece she did in the New York Times. True to the NYT playbook, the facts were twisted into something they could use to take a stab at President Bush and the current administration in general.

Unfortunately for Sarah, she picked on the wrong Iraqis when she decided to misrepresent them. These guys blog.

::::::::Sarah Boxer (boxer@nytimes.com) in her latest piece on the NYT tried hard to put together some rotten limbs to produce a creature that satisfies her fantasy but she ended up introducing a new mutant to the readers and to the methods of journalism.
It wasn't a surprise for me as it was just another reproduction of the old ways of the corrupt side of the MSM in dealing with facts and events.

One short look at the "article" shows how naïve the writer was and how old the methods used in writing this post are. This post has fixed another nail in the casket of the gasping media.

I won't be exaggerating if I said that I find a close resemblance between the ways of the media and those of terror in dealing with events; both are using ugly and cheap maneuvers to get attention.
::::::::

Indeed. Go have a look at, "Our Turn To Speak Now" and read for yourselves.

Somali Muslim Militia Exhume Italian Graves, Throw Remains In The Trash

Here's the lead paragraphs:

::::::::MOGADISHU, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Somali militiamen, allied with Islamic clerics who rule by sharia law, have dug up hundreds of skeletons from an Italian colonial-era cemetery and thrown them in the trash, sparking anger in the Italian and Somali capitals.

The motive for the mass exhumation by gunmen allied with the clerics who rule northern Mogadishu remained unclear on Friday. Witnesses said hundreds of corpses were dug up over the past five days and thrown away at a dump near Mogadishu's airport, which drew a strongly worded protest from Rome.

"The profanation of a silent and historical place, sacred to all civilisations, is a vile and particularly hateful act which can have no justification whatsoever," the Italian government said in a statement.

Gunmen told residents near the cemetery in south Mogadishu that the courts ordered them to clear the site of non-Islamic elements, witnesses said.
::::::::

The report goes on to say that "a number" of other Islamic clerics have condemned the act, but here's the question: how many Islamic clerics were ordering this injustice and how many is "a number" speaking against? If all but 1 of them in Somalia are handing shovels to their soldiers and ordering the remains of the dead tossed in the dump, that's a pretty conclusive piece of evidence that it's a widely-supported move by the Islamics there. I would hope that our own government will have some rather strong words for this disgusting act, also, as will other civilized nations in the world. You'd think this would be something right up the UN's alley, but we've all seen how much of a spine they've got.

First Wave Report

Well, the 1st wave of the (first) huMONGous snowstorm in the DC area for 2005 is now past. If the National Weather Service has it right, we're expecting a second wave of snowfall later this evening. Grand total at the Hoodathunk? abode as of this moment? Maybe 3 inches. It's now 5:41 pm (1741 for you military types) and we still haven't seen a snowplow on the street, however. I certainly hope that's not an omen for the snow removal efforts this year.

The most interesting part of the whole event was the appearance of a thundersnow event here. That's basically a stroke of lightning and a thunderclap in a snowstorm instead of rain. I only heard one, but it's only the second time in my life that I've been in one. The falling snow made it impossible to see the lightning, but I could detect the flash way up there somewhere. The thunder was pretty loud, indicating that the strike was very near.

Even with that, however, there's been no drastic "emergency" event in spite of the doomsayers on the news here. Frankly, if they'd listen to the reports out of the midwest, they'd see we've gotten off pretty easy so far.

Brainwashing 101, A Documentary

I have been seeing blogads here and there for a documentary movie due out in the fall called "Brainwashing 101". The movie regards the atmosphere of indoctrination of left-wing ideology at our nation's universities. The director, Evan Maloney, is featured in a story about his work on the documentary, with some calling him the conservative answer to Micheal Moore.

::::::::A sardonic attack on political correctness in higher education, Mr. Maloney's film was hailed as the "most anticipated" documentary in 2005 by the American Film Renaissance, an upstart film institute based in Dallas. People attending October's Liberty Festival in Los Angeles apparently gave a preview version of it a standing ovation - though not of the duration of Michael Moore's 20 minutes at Cannes. A critic writing for the insider Hollywood Web site Ain't It Cool News called the first cut of the film one of the most "horrifying and hysterical documentaries I have ever seen."

As the title suggests, the 46-minute film, which Mr. Maloney is racing to expand into a full-length documentary by fall, is his attempt to confirm the worst assumptions that conservatives have about what goes on at universities. His film is about the spread of noxious speech codes, abuses of power by vindictive administrators, and the arbitrary restrictions on academic freedom imposed on conservative students - cases of which, the film argues, are increasingly cropping up in universities. The film begins with images of Columbia University, a university embroiled in a controversy concerning students who say professors violated their academic freedom.
::::::::

This is a topic that needs investigation. For quite a while now the members of academia have loudly denied that they have any sort of leftward bias, when they have bothered to stoop to speak to those of us not safely ensconced in their fortresses of intellect. The kind of conduct reported there would never be tolerated in other sectors of American life, such as what happened to a student at Foothills College when he refused to buy into a professor's obviously biased conclusions, or the commentary regularly coming from professors, such as this example from the story I've linked here:

::::::::On the road with Mr. Maloney across the country, the viewer watches an economics professor from Mr. Maloney's alma mater, Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, explain to the filmmaker that most white students at the school are "unconsciously racist" and that much of the "cutting-edge" work in his field is "being done in feminist economics."
...
He stands by his comments on student racism: "Everybody comes from a specific background, and Bucknell students tend to be white upper-income. If they are white upper-income, they come with certain baggage" - such as negative stereotypes about black Americans.
::::::::

Completely different from the baggage carried by university professors as in negative sterotypes about white Americans, eh, professor? Imagine for a moment that a mid-level manager at some well-known company - take your choice from Microsoft, Intel, GM, Pfizer, Boeing, Winchester Homes, etc. - made a comment like that. That he publicly said that his white employees, because they were white, were basically racists. All of them, sight unseen. His opinions on the matter are his business, but there's no way he'd make a comment like that and walk away unscathed. That's because the comment itself is racist. He'd be lucky if all he got was a written reprimand. (Yes, I know. There's a chance that because it was him making such a comment about white employees that it would be ignored, but reverse it and say he made the comment about black employees and you'll get the point.) That our university professors feel completely free and justified to engage in racism themselves is a betrayal of the education process and that betrayal needs to be made public.

Is Maloney the right's Micheal Moore? Who cares? Moore isn't the measure of what I'd call a good documentary filmmaker, so why should I be concerned that someone compares "well" to him? Maloney's got a great topic here and I look foward to seeing his completed work.

Snow In DC! Run For Your Lives!

I'm originally from Indiana and Ohio and, yes - I did in fact walk to school as a child in snow that was at times up to my knees. (I did have boots, however, so I was way ahead of where my father was when he was a kid!) When I moved to northern Virginia 17 years ago, I remember being nearly stunned at the reaction the locals here have to even a forecast of snow. People mob the grocery and home improvement stores and wipe out a week's supply of bread, milk, toilet paper, and sidewalk icemelt in a few hours. Actually seeing snow fall, regardless of how much it is, sends these folks into emergency mode as they flee their offices and scramble to get home. Schools close almost instantly and, often, announce closures for the next day, too. And lest you think it's just those crazy suburban soccer moms who panic, allow me to direct you to the story of our vaunted governmental command center in charge of the Air Marshalls guarding our passenger aircraft. The day before the inauguration we had 1 inch of snow. 1 inch. The command center was, for all practical purposes, closed up because they couldn't get the staff in to man the phones. In any state north of the Mason-Dixon line, 1 inch of snow isn't even noticed. Hell, that's barely up over the rubber soles of a good set of sneakers. Here, they're ready to head to the bomb shelters.

So, imagine if you will, the reaction we see when a real, bona-fide snowstorm comes to town, complete with forecasts of 5-9 inches of snow. According to the National Weather Service, the snow is supposed to start falling this morning and give us 3-5 inches in the 1st wave, let up a little, then hit again for another 2-4 inches. When some of the people who had grown up their whole lives here heard that, they got a look in their eyes such that you'd think the hounds of hell themselves were coming. Now, 5-9 inches isn't anything to sneer at. That's tough to drive through and it's a bear to clean off of the driveway. But there's 2 things about snowfall here that's different from places to our west and north. Reports from those places are talking about up to 15 inches from this same storm. And when that much snow drops in Madison, Wisconsin on January 21, that snow's going to be there on the ground until March. Any snowstorms between now and then will add to the existing piles. Here, the weather pattern is such that even if the snow manages to hit the 9-inch mark, I'd wager there won't be a trace of it left by next Friday. The temperature regularly gets above freezing here during the day and the stuff melts quick. Barring further precipitation, the main roads will be completely dry - not just clear, but dry - by Monday morning's commute.

About an hour ago as my little girl got up and immediately demanded (as 3-year-old's do) a juice cup and the TV tuned to Disney Channel, I noted that the snow had just started to fall. It's just a flurry now, but I know it's going to get far more [ahem] impressive as the morning wears on. Me? I've got my new snowshovel, a thick coat, good gloves, and memories of slogging though snow up to my knees. For some reason, I'm content with that. Let it snow.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Not Your Imagination: Media Overwhelmingly Negative On Iraq

Arthur Chrenkoff's series "Good News On..." deals with the positive progress being made in both Afghanistan and Iraq. As he's mentioned before, it's not that everything going on in those two places is all sunshine and goodness, it's just that our media would have you believe it's all gloom, death, and apolcalypse. To not report the positive things is just as bad as covering over the negative things. His latest edition appears to have brought out quite a number of critics who claim he's just trying to whitewash everything and that the media reporting isn't as negatively-leaning as he suggests. He thought it would be a good idea to try to quantify the situation.

It apparently wasn't hard:

::::::::But it's one thing to have a gut feeling about media negativity and another to know exactly how negative the coverage is. So today I decided to do a little tally.

Friday, 21 January (Australian time) is an average day as far as Iraq is concerned. Google news indexes the following negative stories concerning Iraq:

2,642 stories about Condi Rice's confirmation hearings, in the context of grilling she has received over the Administration's Iraq policy

1,992 stories about suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks

887 stories about prisoner abuse by British soldiers

2,345 stories about President Bush's inauguration, in the context of the President failing to mention the word "Iraq" in his speech, or indeed discuss the war

216 stories about hostages currently being held in Iraq

761 stories reporting on activities and public statements of insurgents

357 stories about the anti-war movement and the dropping public support for involvement in Iraq...
::::::::

And on and on. Stories of a positive nature?

::::::::311 stories about voter registration for Iraqis overseas. Even here we have to be cautious as significant number of these stories comment on "disappointingly" low numbers registering.

16 stories about security successes in the fight against insurgents

7 stories about positive developments relating to elections

73 stories about the return to Iraq of stolen antiques.
::::::::

And that's the list in its entirety. Many of us here in the blogosphere already know this, being as connected as we are. But it's good to have some numbers to make it easier for the folks who aren't to see the problem.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

VW Polo: For The Terrorist Who Has Everything

A very non-PC VW commercial that, nevertheless, I find highly amusing. Hat tip to Blackfive.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Report Shows 2004 Election Exit Polls Tilted Toward Kerry

The report shows that the reason the results showed such strong support for Kerry even though he went on to lose was that Kerry supporters were more likely to participate in the exit polls to begin with.

::::::::WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Exit polls overstated John Kerry's share of the vote on November 2, both nationally and in many states, because more Kerry supporters participated in the survey than Bush voters, according to an internal review of the exit-polling process released Wednesday.

The report said it is difficult to pinpoint precisely why, in general, Kerry voters were more likely to participate in the exit poll than were Bush voters. "There were certainly motivational factors that are impossible to quantify," the report said.

Problems with the numbers first surfaced on Election Day, when exit polls showed Kerry with a 3-point lead nationally and an edge in some key battleground states. Those exit poll results were leaked and became widely known through the Internet.

...

The discrepancies stemmed from problems in interviewing voters at the 1,480 randomly chosen precincts where exit pollsters were stationed, not from how those precincts were selected or the way the data were processed, according to the 75-page report.

The report recommends a number of steps to deal with the problem, including better training for interviewers, as well as continued research aimed at boosting participation in the polls.

The report was issued by Mitofsky International and Edison Media Research, the polling firms that conducted the polls on behalf of the so-called National Election Pool, a consortium of six national media organizations (AP, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC).

To prevent leaks in future elections, the news organizations have agreed not to access the data until 6 p.m. ET.

The report found that the exit polls offered no evidence of widespread fraud.

"Exit polls do not support the allegations of fraud due to rigging of voting equipment. Our analysis of the difference between the vote count and the exit poll at each polling location in our sample has found no systematic differences for precincts using touch screen and optical scan voting equipment," the report found.
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And there you go, folks. Using exit polls to infer that fraud was going on was crazy in the first place, but now the experts have analyzed the data and found that no such evidence exists. Unless Kerry supporters are prepared with real, documented and reported numbers such as is being presented in Washington and Wisconsin, then enough is enough. Both sides of the political spectrum have had issues with the elections process, so let's all bend our efforts to securing the next one.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Coincidence? Hmmmm...

Bill at INDC Journal:

:::::::: January 18, 2005
Day Off

No posting today.
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OK, innocent enough. But then there's Rachel over at Blue-Eyed Infidel:

::::::::Tuesday, January 18, 2005
I am busy

sorry

Don't you hate it when bloggers post that they're not going to post the rest of the day? It annoys the hell out of me, personally. Nevertheless. Now you know.
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Coincidence? Sure. Sure it is. We report... you decide...

Iraqi Archbishop Freed

Noted this morning as a follow up to my previous post:

::::::::BAGHDAD, Iraq — A Catholic archbishop kidnapped in northern Iraq was freed Tuesday without any ransom being paid, a day after he was seized by gunmen, the Vatican said.::::::::

Good news, indeed. Not so good, from the same story:

::::::::Meanwhile, a video surfaced Tuesday showing eight Chinese construction workers held hostage by gunmen claiming the men are employed by a company working with U.S. troops, in the latest abduction of foreigners in Iraq. China's official Xinhua News Agency said diplomats were "making all efforts to rescue" the hostages.

The men from China's southern Fujian province went missing last week while traveling to Jordan, Xinhua said.
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You know, the last people on Earth I'd be pissing off would be the current owners of the world's largest standing army who have a history of not giving too much of a damn what the rest of the world thinks when they decide to move. Oh, and China's a lot closer to Iraq than we are. Just saying.

Monday, January 17, 2005

DoD Responds To Hersh's Latest Work Of Fiction

Seymour Hersh, the man who brought you the endless parade of inaccuracies surrounding Abu Ghraib is now in - dare we say it? - crisis mode again with his story in the New Yorker "The Coming Wars." Hersh tells a tale of Iran in America's crosshairs (with triggermen cackling while they wait for the go signal, no doubt) along with reports of meetings, conspiracies, and the usual laundry list of leaked "gotcha's" from sources he can't reveal. Here's what the DoD had to say about it today:

::::::::Mr. Hersh's article is so riddled with errors of fundamental fact that the credibility of his entire piece is destroyed.

Mr. Hersh's source(s) feed him with rumor, innuendo, and assertions about meetings that never happened, programs that do not exist, and statements by officials that were never made.

A sampling from this article alone includes:
  • The post-election meeting he describes between the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not happen.

  • The only civilians in the chain-of-command are the President and the Secretary of Defense, despite Mr. Hersh's confident assertion that the chain of command now includes two Department policy officials. His assertion is outrageous, and constitutionally specious.

  • Arrangements Mr. Hersh alleges between Under Secretary Douglas Feith and Israel, government or non-government, do not exist. Here, Mr. Hersh is building on links created by the soft bigotry of some conspiracy theorists. This reflects poorly on Mr. Hersh and the New Yorker.

  • Mr. Hersh cannot even keep track of his own wanderings. At one point in his article, he makes the outlandish assertion that the military operations he describes are so secret that the operations are being kept secret even from U.S. military Combatant Commanders. Mr. Hersh later states, though, that the locus of this super-secret activity is at the U.S. Central Command headquarters, evidently without the knowledge of the commander if Mr. Hersh is to be believed.


By his own admission, Mr. Hersh evidently is working on an "alternative history" novel. He is well along in that work, given the high quality of "alternative present" that he has developed in several recent articles.

Mr. Hersh's preference for single, anonymous, unofficial sources for his most fantastic claims makes it difficult to parse his discussion of Defense Department operations.

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If you need a look at the effect of Mr. Hersh's work, you can test yourself on what you know about Abu Ghraib. Any incorrect info you've got on that subject was deliberate effort on Hersh's part. Obviously he's doing the same thing here.

'Answer The Question' Not An Excuse For Asking

Another topic that's been out on the blogs for a bit is the story of the FootHills College, CA student who was told by his professor that he needed to get psychotherapy for writing a pro-US essay. This was yet another topic I just didn't manage to fit in and thought the time was past for commentary until this story in the Washington Times brought it once again to the fore. I leave it to the reader to check out both the story and the timeline linked above. Specifically, what's drawn my attention to the story was a post on the subject by Michelle Malkin, a well-known conservative author whose opinions and viewpoints I generally respect. (We have differences on some fairly large topics but that's a story for another day.)

Michelle's post mentions that some other conservative blogosphere denizens who happen to also be political science professors have taken a look at the student's essay and were - to put it bluntly - unimpressed. She follows that up with an assessment that her own reading of the essay showed that the critical problem with the essay was that it didn't answer the question. She's got a quote there from a teacher, Betsy Newmark, who relates how important it is to answer the question asked when doing an essay. Fair enough. I'm certainly a fan of answering the question asked as opposed to answering the question you think the other person was going to ask next. But is this a fair critique in this situation? Are there circumstances where a question is asked in such a manner as to preclude a direct answer by you?

Well, I suppose not, if you're willing to produce an answer that you don't believe in. Let's start by looking at the question put to the student that day:

::::::::"Dye and Zeigler contend that the constitution of the United States was not "ordained and established" by "the people" as we have so often been led to believe. They contend instead that it was written by a small educated and wealthy elite in America who (were) representative of powerful economic and political interests. Analyze the US constitution (original document), and show how its formulation excluded majority of the people living in America at that time, and how it was dominated by America's elite interest."::::::::

In the parlance of logicians, this is called a "loaded question", and doubly so in this instance. You are asked the question not to analyze the contention of Dye and Zeigler. The truth of their statement is considered in the wording of the question to be axiomatic fact. You are to pull apart the US Constitution and arrive, in your own words of course, at the same conclusion they did. The question assumes the truth of their analysis because it asks you to show what it is clearly claiming is already there. The intentions and prejudices of the professor asking the question are equally plain in his use of the terms and in the image he presents of a small cadre of elites (used in the negative sense here) purposely excluding the majority of Americans, clearly on purpose and in service to their unnamed economic and political interests. If you do not believe such a thing about the framers of the Constitution, how are you to respond to that question? Like the Goucho Marx gag where he asked guests on his show, "Have you stopped beating your wife?", there's no way to present a direct answer to the question without granting the unspoken premise contained within: that you, at some point, started beating your wife to begin with.

I suppose I would ask Michelle Malkin if she were presented with a question in a class she was taking that read something like, "Thoughout history, most men have considered women of Asian descent to be submissive and incapable of rational thought. Analyze (such and such a document) and show that education for Asian girls is a waste of time.", how would she respond? Bear in mind that arguing that such a viewpoint is completely untrue and thoroughly unjustified doesn't answer the question. I can see and understand Michelle's point (and those of the people she links and quotes) but I wonder to what degree an individual should be forced to write espousing a viewpoint they do not agree with in any measure?

The brunt of my disdain here is aimed squarely at the Professor. Had he simply changed the final sentence to ask the student to analyze the document and argue in favor or opposition to the stated conclusion of Dye and Zeigler, that would have been fine. Better than fine, in fact. Instead, he rammed a conclusion down the throats of the students and then instructed them to support it. To follow that up with a suggestion that a student who felt he could not even offer lip service to the professor's position is mentally unstable drops his assessment of the student from academic to ad hominem attack. The professor should apologize, change his essay question to remove his politics from the equation, and the college should provide better oversight of its employees.

Hello? Editors, Where Are You?

OK, I just can't pass this one up. Reading a story on Iraqis running for office in the upcoming elections, I found this paragraph:

::::::::BAGHDAD — Just months ago, Fattahlah Ghazi al-Esmaili was penning articles in support of Iraq's Shi'ite uprising as editor for Ishriqat, a newspaper for rebel cleric Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi's Army militia.

Now the 38-year-old has abandoned his Arab head scarf for a neat beige suit and is out pumping the flesh in his run for parliament at the head of a 180-candidate list representing the impoverished Shi'ites of Sadr City.
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I beg your pardon? "...pumping the flesh.."? At first, I was sure this was a translation from an Arabic web site, but check out where the story was published: The Washington Times. Yep, that's right, the 2nd newspaper in Washington, DC. And again, the story wasn't pulled from some Reuters service who picked this up from an Iraqi freelancer. It's by-lined as if the author is a Washington Times employee. Now, I can give the author a pass, I suppose, in getting his idioms a little [ahem] twisted. But you're telling me that the editors at the Wash Times can't read that line and think, "you know, American slang being what it is, I think we should change that to 'shaking hands'." Hell, even changing it to the recognized colloquialism "pressing the flesh" would have been better. I mean, really, what kind of image did they want us to draw from that story?

(OK, I'm a pervert. Go figure.)

Good News From Iraq, Again

Chrenkoff does it again! This is Part 19 of his "Good News from Iraq" posting. It's fortunate he's doing this kind of work - it's certain you won't be seeing this on the network news shows.

Chrenkoff has had his critics. None of them have anything to say about the veracity of his work, of course. It's just that when he shows that real progress is being made, it gives lie to the claim that the entire effort has been nothing but a disaster and that no good has come out of it.

::::::::It has been a mission of this fortnightly column, now in its nineteenth edition, to bring to readers' attention all that "gets overlooked if not ignored" in Iraq: the advancements of the political and civil society, the rebirth of freedom, economic growth and reconstruction progress, generosity of foreigners and positive role played by the Coalition troops in rebuilding the country, and unremarked upon security successes. Contrary to some critics, the intention has never been to whitewash the situation in Iraq or to downplay the negative; the violence, bloodshed, disappointments and frustrations are all there for everyone to see and read about in the mainstream media on a daily basis. But to point out positive developments is not to deny the bad news, merely to provide a more complete picture. As voters faced with the defining foreign policy issue of the new millennium we owe it to ourselves to be fully informed about the state of affairs in Iraq. And that means both the car bombs and rebuilt hospitals.

Below is not the full picture of Iraq - merely that part of it you don't often see on the nightly news or the pages of newspapers. This does not automatically make it more - or less important in the scheme of things, merely equally important to consider.
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Absolutely, Arthur. If I saw more of an effort on the part of our news media to actually show the positive things going on as well as the negatives, I wouldn't be getting accused of being a yes-man to the administration. At least I hope I wouldn't. That assumes an equal willingness on the part of the administrations foes to recognize that not everything is horribly wrong, though, so I guess I needn't worry about that particular status quo changing.

In any case, Chrenkoff is an invaluable source. Anyone interested in having the whole story needs to give him a read.

Terrorists In Iraq Kidnap Catholic Archbishop

The Vatican has announced that a Catholic archbishop has been kidnapped in Iraq:

::::::::It identified the kidnapped man as Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa, 66, of the Syrian Catholic Church (search), one of the branches of the Roman Catholic Church.

"The Holy See deplores in the firmest way such a terrorist act," a Vatican statement said, demanding that he be freed immediately.

A priest in Iraq said on condition of anonymity that the archbishop was walking in front of the Al-Bishara church in Mosul's eastern neighborhood of Muhandeseen when gunmen forced him into a car and drove away.
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